The Andorran Health Care Service ( SAAS ) begins the clinical validation of two new-generation rapid saliva Covid-19 tests designed by Linkcare
- The trial, which will soon be joined by a Catalan hospital, will validate the effectiveness of a new generation of tests that will be a great advantage in screening strategies to contain new outbreaks easily and quickly.
- The new tests, currently produced in China, have been designed by the Catalan company Linkcare and the Singapore company Zhongrun Biotech.
Barcelona, December 3, 2020.- Linkcare Health Services, spin off of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona dedicated to collaborative medicine, announces the start of clinical validation at the NS Meritxell Hospital in Andorra of two new next-generation saliva and oral mucus rapid tests which will be instrumental in curbing the epidemic caused by Covid-19. The tests, one an antigen test and the other analyzing IgA/IgG antibodies, are non-invasive and can be administered en masse and with the necessary frequency, in order to facilitate the identification and isolation of asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
The diagnostic kits, designed by Linkcare and Singapore-based Zhongrun Biotech, currently produced in China, have relied on the advice of global experts in the field of saliva, and obtained excellent preliminary laboratory results.
The challenge of detecting asymptomatic positives
One of the main challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic is the importance and difficulty of identifying asymptomatic carriers.
Currently used rapid antigent tests, based on a nasopharyngeal sample, have been useful in finding the most infectious asymptomatic carriers, as seen in Slovakia, where their use identified 57,402 carriers in two weekends last November, while in the previous seven months only 76,072 cases had been detected. However, this type of rapid testing requires a human and logistical infrastructure that complicates the implementation of massive screening and isolation strategies.
Linkcare’s new saliva antigen test makes it easy to quickly and economically test specific groups and even entire populations in order to identify and isolate positives. In this way, the transmission chains are broken and confinement of virus carriers is limited as much as possible.
In the case of people with symptoms, and in periods when seasonal flu can be easily confused with Covid-19, this type of rapid testing will also allow professionals to quickly differentiate Covid-19 from other seasonal respiratory diseases.
On the other hand, antibody tests, and in particular those that can detect early IgAs that appear in the mucosal tissues where SARS-CoV-2 gets attached, open up the possibility of identifying virtually all those people who have been exposed to the virus, starting on the sixth day after system onset and until weeks after contact.
The QR code, an advantage for prescription, management and privacy
Carrying out the tests is not enough, it is also necessary to manage the results. For this reason, all tests designed by Linkcare, including new products, carry a unique QR identifier that can be associated with an electronic prescription, while maintaining the privacy and anonymity of the participants. In this way, the performance of the test does not require access to any personal data and the results can be shared with health systems such as “La Meva Salut” in Catalonia, or other health services.
Linkcare was born in 2010 as a spin off of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona. The company offers advice on collaborative medicine projects in order to promote patient empowerment in their health management, improve communication with relatives and caregivers, and facilitate greater cooperation between various kinds of health personnel (case managers, nurses, physiotherapists, family physicians, specialists, etc.).
Linkcare designs and validates collaborative medicine procedures. The company’s health innovations include lifestyle improvement procedures, screening, diagnostic aid programs, and chronic disease management. In this sense, Linkcare has designed and given support to the screening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) of the Basque Health Service (Osakidetza) since 2011. Linkcare’s innovative spirit has gained national and international recognition, and two of its projects have been recognized by the Basque National Public Health System and the European Union.
Linkcare’s medical collaboration platform, which is used to manage screening data, has facilitated the management of distributed clinical trials and medical research, having participated in more than 25 scientific publications, 14 clinical trials and international projects, with the collaboration of more than 40 European research institutions.
The company is prominent and active in China, where it facilitated the accord for the development of Guangzhou Barcelona International Hospital, led by Hospital Clínic, with the support of Spanish Presidents Pedro Sanchez and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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European authorities support the use of rapid tests to fight the epidemic
The European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) recently published a paper entitled “Options for the use of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK” which includes among their recommendations:
- Rapid antigen testing can contribute to Covid-19’s overall testing capability, offering advantages in terms of shorter rotation times and reduced costs, especially in situations where RT-PCR-testing capacity is limited.
- ECDC recommends that EU Member States perform specific, independent validations of rapid antigen testing prior to implementation.
- Rapid antigen tests can help reduce transmission through early detection of highly infectious cases, and facilitate getting a jumpstart on contact tracing.
More and more scientists are supporting the use of rapid tests for controlling the epidemic
Professor Michael Mina of Harvard University insists on the desirability of performing mass antigen controls as the best strategy for controlling the spread of Covid-19 . According to his view, although rapid tests have a lower sensitivity than nucleic acid replication tests, the fact that they can be performed massively and frequently helps control transmission more efficiently than with more sensitive but more difficult and expensive products whose results are generated more slowly.
The new US presidential administration has immediately come out in support of this proposal and several cities such as New York have already announced their high-intensity universal screening programs.
 https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/options-use-rapid-antigen-tests-covid-19-eueea-and-uk. Accessed 27 November 2020
 Mina, Michael J., Roy Parker, and Daniel B. Larremore. “Rethinking Covid-19 test sensitivity—A strategy for containment.” New England Journal of Medicine (2020).